Ambition: In Review

Am I losing my OOOOmmppph?

The new season of BBC Apprentice which aired last week has seen more young people than ever before, and it’s no surprise, today’s young people are forming a new generation of entrepreneurs and self-starters who want to create a brand for themselves.  That should be great, right?

However, shortly into the opening episode, you are suddenly hit with the realisation that maybe, just maybe, these young people are entrepreneurs and self-starters because they do not have the first clue about what is needed to get on in the workplace.  These people in my books are simply, unemployable. I hope it is just for entertainment’s sake, because these candidates all portray stinking attitudes.


These Lord Sugar ‘hopefuls’ who have been screened, made the cut and are now put on-air, are the most self-deluded, narcissistic , conceited, ignorant and cocky bunch yet (see above). With the final prize of a 50/50 partnership in business and cash investment for their business proposal, it is shocking that the candidates’ characters do not form part of the show’s requirement to succeed in this process.  Instead, these candidates’ disruptive behaviours are further encouraged in the boardroom. It is with time and time again, we see bullish and aggressive behaviours being rewarded. In the end, I often wonder whether they actually have the calibre to run a business and behave in one or just high on over-ambition, enthusiasm and an unbreakable self-belief?

In my 20s….

I used to have a lot of this energy I see on the show. I used to be all gung-ho – both in life and at work. Of course, my attitude was not as extreme as what’s being portrayed and reality-TV-worthy, but my attitude in life was the same as these contestants. I often felt like a bull in a china shop because I truly had little fear and a lot of confidence. There was this sense that anything was possible. I was an ‘ambitious go-getter’.

Rat race

Following my head: Snakes and Ladders

People say: As much as we rather not admit it, jerks often get ahead in our world. You need to be an A-hole to get to the top.

In my 20s, I was surrounded by people who kept telling me to grab life by the horns – that only the fittest, survived. Fresh on the corporate ladder, I was suddenly exposed to a dog-eat-dog world. To get ahead, we as a society, have allowed the notion of “jerk = strong leader” to be ingrained in our business culture. We have encouraged an unhealthy culture of competitiveness – where you spend your 9 to 5 conjuring enemies out of thin air, even when none exists. The business world facilitates this self-inducing drug for the constant desire to win that it becomes an obsession, a fixation that overwhelms you. And in my 20s, I had all the energy to carry me through.

Coming alive in my 30s

Now in my 30s, I am discovering; discovering what elements in my life mean to me. I was so busy and caught up in the corporate spider-web that I never stopped to ask myself the most important question of all: What do I want to spend my day doing? This is because, what makes us happy does change over time. And part of finding our own happiness is having an outside view of ambition and being able to figure it out for ourselves. A part of it is letting go of what others’ expect of us, and a bigger part is letting go of the expectation we have created for ourselves.

As a result, I have lost a bit of that energy I once had in my 20s, that grit and ballsiness. I find that I am now less fixated to charge through life and in career, but don’t get me wrong, I still want strive to succeed. The energy I had in my 20s has manifested into a new type of energy, a new ambition. I can’t really explain it but I find myself slowing down, yet having more head on my shoulders than when I was in my 20s. My husband says I’m stepping sideways. But stepping sideways is not about downsizing, quitting the rat race or kicking back; it is about knowing when to pause to design your own path. In my 30s, I put my energy in staying open to my own development and being flexible to set what my path would look like as I age.

World we want

Following my heart

Am I mellowing out?  I am just far more chilled than I was back in my 20s. It takes a lot to properly annoy me these days, and what’s even more bizarre is that the stuff that used to really wind me up doesn’t even bother me anymore. I have just become more relaxed about ‘stuff’, and in life, we face all sorts of unnecessary, energy draining ‘stuff’. In my 30s, I want to use my skills and knowledge for something more than money. Career success doesn’t have to be the top job at the biggest company; but more about having the job most fulfilling to you. It’s about how much control you have to create the life that you want, because for all it’s worth, what is the point if you don’t like the life that you’ve got?

Finally growing up

I hope to find a different form of confidence that will take me through the rest of my life – not one with bravado and some overt pretence of self-belief like in my 20s, but one which is quiet, composed and in control.

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